My bed was made up of a thin mattress that sat atop another thin mattress, which sat atop multiple mattress pads. It was concave at its center, and I sunk neatly into it. My iPod had died a few months before I’d left for Costa Rica, and rather than expend the effort towards getting it fixed or replaced, I decided I didn’t actually need an iPod. After all, I wanted to live more simply- to readjust what I thought I “needed”.
But I wasn’t without music. My friend Nate had put a few albums on my laptop as a parting gift before I left Chicago. Nate never has enough money, but he always has a lot of new music, most of which is sung by soulful females. Since childhood, he has simply preferred sound of female voices. He’s had a painting of Christina Aguilara in his room for over a decade, which he painted himself. When I told him that Michael Jackson had died, he said, “Oh. Weird. Well, I was more of a Janet fan anyway.”
Before I’d left Chicago for Costa Rica, I’d started a relationship with a tall, dark, handsome southerner. He was jaded and funny, elusive and smart. We dated for a short time and then I left. I’d already forked over the money for the teacher training in Costa Rica, and despite my infatuation with this man, I knew it was now or never, so I went.
I sunk into the concave mattress pile and felt sorry for myself. I’d been in Costa Rica for two days. I felt homesick and small. I’d also convinced myself that I was in love with that guy. I’d ride this out and get back home ASAP. In the meantime, I opened Nate’s music and looked for songs that seemed appropriate to pine to. I clicked on “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele. It was mid-2010 and she was not yet a household name. There I laid, sinking into the bed, listening to her achy voice while quietly weeping. (I could offer him a warm embrace when the whole world was on his case! I could do that!) What a wonderful song to be pathetic to. I couldn’t wait to hear more.
A few months later, I was in Peru when I found out that guy had started dating someone new. Thanks to all that unreasonable pining, my plans of returning home tan, cultured, and back into his loving arms were dashed. A few days later, Nate sent me an email: “Go up onto your deck…” (the one that looked over the Andes), “…listen to this, and cry.” It was Adele, live on Jools Holland, singing her new single, “Someone Like You”…
…I DID hear that he (kind of, not really) settled down and that she made his dreams come true! I did hear that! So what if he wasn’t married and we only dated for a few months? This song was about us.
That song, it turned out, was about everyone. I returned home a few months later to a country as enamored with Adele as I had been. I watched my friend’s step-mom sanitize her counter tops as she went on about how “Someone Like You” reminded her of a pilot she once had a tryst with back in her flight attendant days. My best friend said it reminded her of a guy she’d dated for a few months before he went to Germany and got married to someone else. Nate said it made him think of the sweet boy from high school that he fooled around with in his parents’ laundry room.
Everyone had a Someone.
Although I have no problem throwing a pop song on a workout or party playlist, when it comes to actually investing in someone’s music, I generally avoid pop. If you haven’t noticed, it can be a bit vapid and devoid of originality. Plenty of critics can say the same about Adele. And despite my devotion to her, you won’t find me standing atop a soapbox hailing her as a seminal songwriter. However, you will find me writing a blog about how her voice, with its nuanced twinges and pangs, is a unifying force of relate-ability.
Yesterday afternoon, a benevolent queen sent me the leaked version of the album. I hurried myself into a conference room at work. Adele, old friend, it’s good to have you back. Ever a devotee of paying it forward, I sent it along to friends and family. By 9pm last night, I had five text conversations going about it. “I like this one”, “This one is eh”, “Oh, this one is about her son!”, “I need to listen a few more times til I decide”, etc.
You know that part in concerts when the singer points the mic to the crowd, letting them sing the chorus themselves? That always gives me goosebumps and sometimes, embarrassingly enough, makes me tear up. My sister emailed me this morning telling me she has the afternoon off and plans to bake with my parents while listening to the album. We almost never buy the same albums. Adele is the exception. Adele, singer of sad songs, evoker of nostalgia, the great unifier. My tatted up hipster friend, my dad, my gay friends, my socialist feminist BFF in Mexico, we all sing her praises in unison. Last night and this morning, while fielding texts and emails about the new album, I had a bit of the same feeling as listening to the crowd sing a song together. I didn’t cry, though. Let’s not get carried away.